Apollo Test Launch, 45 Years Ago, and Lunar Mapping Today

Forty-five years ago today — September 18, 1964 — NASA launched a Saturn-1 booster from Cape Canaveral in mission SA-7, also known as Apollo “Boiler Plate 15.” The launch demonstrated the Launch Escape System (LES) for the first time.

Anything Apollo-related of course reminds me of the moon, but I’ll skip the shameless plug in favor of some exciting news about the current LRO mission:

After two months of checkout and calibration, NASA’s $504 million Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was maneuvered into a circular 31-mile-high mapping orbit Tuesday and scientists said Thursday the spacecraft’s instruments are delivering intriguing clues about the possible presence of water ice.

The exciting news and “intriguing clues” are indications that hydrogen deposits may exist not only in permanently-shadowed craters near the south pole, but elsewhere on the moon as well — perhaps buried under lunar soil. Whether they’re water, or ammonia, or methane, or something else is unclear, but there appears to be something there, and probably something useful. Read the whole Spaceflight Now report here.

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